Monday, June 30, 2008

Ysyakh-Yakutian New Year

So, Now that I've been to at least three Ysyakh celebrations, I feel that I can safely say I am an Ysyakh expert. Or at least I know more about it than your Average American.

Ysyakh is, as the title of the post says, the Yakutian celebration of summer and the New Year. But it's also much more than that. My guidebook says that Ysyakh usually takes place the weekend after the Summer Solstice, which is the truth, but actually, Ysyakh is the big summer holiday and only the big City-wide Ysyakh takes place the weekend after the Solstice.

The smaller Ysyakhs are like family reunions. It's a chance for people who haven't seen each other in a year or so to get together and catch up and what's going on. While Ysyakhs vary in size, there are some things that remain the same.

Ysyakh is held in an open field out in nature. You go and when you first arrive, you set up camp. This involves spreading out blankets sometimes, putting up a little tent and hauling out the masses of food. There's no set menu of stuff you eat at Ysyakh but there are a few key traditions. Such as horse meat, and Koumiss which is fermented milk. Traditionally, it's mare's milk, but now a-days it's often cow, sometimes goat. Other than those two things, the menu varies. Chicken, Pirozhki (Pastries filled with meat) and sliced cucumbers and tomatos are very popular. To drink there's usually in addition to Koumiss, water, beer, and juice.

The events are in some ways standard as well. There's usually a program of welcome. There are usually singing contests and fellowship. There's usually Sports Games as well where young men compete in various events to prove their strength (wow, I sound like one of the translated from Russian guidebooks you find here.) These games include such things as wrestling, Seeing who can pull a stick out of another person's grasp, and seeing how far you can carry a 116kg stone before dropping it.

The City-wide Ysyakh is Ysyakh on steroids. It's absolutely huge. It's kind of like the county fair, only with less rides. There are booths selling everything from toys, to souvenirs, to food. There are horse rides, and stages where various concerts and things take place. Everything relating to Yakutian culture and done in the Yakutian language of course. At the big Ysyakh, there's an opening ceremony where a shaman sprinkles koumiss on the ground. Typically the City-wide celebration starts on a saturday at noon and finishes the next day at six in the evening. At three a.m. On sunday morning, there's a celebration to welcome the sun. I don't know what all that entails because I didn't get to attend that part.

The Ysyakh celbrations usually begin around the last weekend in May and continue through July. If you would like to know more about Ysyakh, or would just like to see some pictures and press from it, you can do so at The Official Ysyakh Website But I warn you that it is all in Russian.

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